St Helens 25-year-old prop James Graham will captain England for the Four Nations tournament, which starts on Saturday in New Zealand. He is the third player to take the job after injuries to both Adrian Morley and Jamie Peacock.
Graham led the England Academy team to victory in Australia six years ago and he said: (quote) When Steve McNamara offered me the captaincy I had no hesitation in saying yes. It is a great honour and I am deeply proud that I have this chance. It came as a surprise but hopefully I can reward his judgement with some good performances on the field. It has not really sunk in yet, perhaps it is one of the honours that only sink in once you have retired. I do not think it is going to change me as a player. Certainly, at the moment my focus is not on being England captain, it is on winning a rugby league game against New Zealand on Saturday. (end quote)
Graham made a try-scoring international debut against New Zealand at St Helens in 2006. He was awarded the coveted Man of Steel Trophy in 2008, the first time the award was voted on by his fellow professionals.
His selection comes ahead of the likes of Sean O’Loughlin and Gareth Ellis.
McNamara said: (quote) James was one of a number of outstanding candidates for the position and I am delighted he is the new England captain. The natural leadership skills that he shows both on the field and on the training ground make him the ideal replacement for Adrian Morley. Without a doubt James has been one of the most consistent and outstanding performers both in the Super League and on the international stage. It is those qualities plus his drive and enthusiasm that will make James a very good and successful captain of the England rugby league team. (end quote)
Warrington prop forward Garreth Carvell has been called into England’s squad as a replacement for his club-mate Morley and he said: (quote) The only reason I have come over is to play. It is exciting. I said I was available 24 hours and they took it literally. I got a call at 1am and got on the first flight. (end quote)
Carvell, 29, was in the initial England train-on squad and played against Cumbria in a warm-up match earlier this month but was not included in coach Steve McNamara’s final 24-man touring party. Carvell, who flew out on Sunday evening, is due to join the England squad on Tuesday in Wellington ahead of the opener against New Zealand.